A Texas death row inmate is due to be executed on Wednesday after winning his long battle in the Supreme Court to have his pastor pray for him while the lethal injection is administered.
John Henry Ramirez, 38, was sentenced to death for the 2004 stabbing of convenience store clerk Pablo Castro, 46, in a series of armed robberies.
His execution date was delayed last year after Ramirez claimed his religious freedom was being violated because state prison rules prevented his pastor from touching him and praying aloud during the proceedings.
Ramirez’s fight ended up clarifying the role of spiritual advisers in death chambers nationwide after the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the convicted murderer in March.
The court ruled that states must consider the wishes of death row inmates who wish to have their religious leaders with them during executions.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Pardons on Monday refused to commute Ramirez’s death sentence to a lesser sentence.
Ramirez has exhausted all possible remedies and no final Supreme Court application is expected, his attorney Seth Kretzer said.
Ramirez was found guilty of stabbing Castro 29 times during a robbery that cops say was the culmination of a three-day binge fueled by a mix of pot, pills, booze and cocaine – and only earned him $1.25.
He fled to Mexico immediately afterwards but was arrested 3½ years later.
Kretzer said while he felt empathy for the victim’s family, his client’s legal challenge was about protecting religious freedoms for all – noting that even Nazi war criminals received ministers before their execution after the Second World War.
“It was not a reflection on a favor we were doing for the Nazis,” Kretzer said. “Ensuring religious administration at the time of death reflects the relative moral strength of the captors.”
When Ramirez receives his lethal injection, his spiritual advisor, Dana Moore, will also be able to hold a Bible in the death chamber, which was not previously allowed, Kretzer said.
If Ramirez’s execution goes as planned, he would be the third inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 11th in the country.
With post wires